What’s your healthcare gamification strategy?

Healthcare gamification is hotter than ever.

According to a new study from Research N Reports, the global healthcare gamification market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 55 percent, reaching $4.2 billion by 2022. The report examines how businesses such as Microsoft are developing technologies that help people and organizations manage healthcare through achievement-based activities.

To give you a sense of how newsworthy healthcare gamification has become, Research N Reports is not even the only company analyzing the market. In 2017, for instance, Research and Markets estimated that the global healthcare gamification market would reach $13.5 billion by 2025.

Gamification in healthcare has been talked about for some time, but more companies have been getting involved in different ways. For instance, SuperBetter is an app that offers rewards for achieving self-care and mental health goals. According to SuperBetter, “A randomized controlled trial conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that playing SuperBetter for 40 days increases resilience, optimism, social support, and players' belief in their own ability to succeed and achieve their goals. They also found that SuperBetter users had significantly fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and were significantly happier and more satisfied with their lives.”

One of the most intriguing examples of companies embracing healthcare gamification is Apple, which rewards Apple Watch and iPhone owners with badges for accomplishing fitness tasks such as hiking or cycling. You get more badges when you surpass daily totals such as calories burned. Apple also awards badges on special days. For example, on Earth Day April 22, you could unlock a special badge by exercising more than 30 minutes that day.

Apple offering badges is part of Apple’s continued push into healthcare especially through wellness care. Apple has been developing apps such as Health to empower people to manage their own health and relies on the iPhone and Apple Watch as the delivery platform. The strategy has helped Apple boost Apple Watch sales and threaten Fitbit as the premier fitness tracker.

Gamification provides opportunities for hospitals as well. Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida is working with video game designers to find ways to develop gaming experiences to help patients manage their health. The hospital is sponsoring an event known as MeGa Health Jam to encourage programmers to develop, say, video games that reward points to patients for learning about disease prevention.

Gamifying healthcare has become more topical for a few reasons:

• First, as the healthcare industry becomes more outcomes-based and expensive, wellness care has become more critical. Employers, insurers, and healthcare providers are focusing more energy on keeping people out of the hospital by helping them manage their own health. Aetna famously provided its employees Apple Watches to encourage them to track their health more effectively and is now giving away 500,000 of the devices to qualified customers.

• Unlocking wellness achievements taps into a naturally popular behavior. The wild success of Pokémon GO demonstrated how willingly people will play achievement oriented games simply for the fun of earning points. What’s more, Pokémon GO showed that game playing need not be passive experience requiring you to sit on a sofa and watch a video screen. Pokémon GO by its nature requires players to walk around and actively at that. And Pokémon GO is just the beginning. This summer, a number of augmented reality games are hitting the market to offer experiences akin to Pokémon GO, including the long-awaited gaming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite game. If people are challenged with a compelling experience, they will respond – which is exactly why Apple has been creating wellness badges.

• The continued proliferation of mobile devices creates natural platforms for gaming. About eight out of 10 Americans owns a smartphone. Sales of wearables are growing by an average of 20 percent, and, as noted, the Apple Watch is enjoying a notable increase in adoption. It’s much easier for people to track their health and have fun doing so with devices they already own as opposed to having to buy a new product.

The potential of gamifying wellness care opens up many ways for healthcare providers to encourage patients and hospital’s own employees to manage their health. Interestingly, a startup name Clean Hands Safe Hands has achieved funding to encourage hospital employees to keep their hands clean. How is your organization responding?

Jon Schepke is currently the General Manager of Reputation.com, helping large organizations with hundreds or thousands of consumer-facing locations ensure that their star ratings and reviews reflect the truth about the service they provide.

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